Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 13 May 19:
1 Corinthians 8:13 — “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 8 deals with how our actions affect others, particularly weaker Christians. Two points jump out at me from this chapter:
First, within the church in Corinth, there were apparently some who still believed that there really were other gods – “Yet for us there is one God…. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.” Though believing that there is no other god but God is an essential truth, Paul urges the church to go out of their way to be considerate of others’ weakness and lack of true understanding — “’knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.’”
Second, Paul encourages the church not to eat meat that had been previously sacrificed to idols (likely very good meat) for the sake of those who still had a weakness with idols. Paul was concerned about doing anything that might entice former idol worshippers to slip back into idolatry and fall back into the trap of immorality —
– Acts 15:29 – “…that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
– Acts 21:25 – “But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
– Revelation 2:14 — But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
– Revelation 2:20 — But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
I have heard these verses used most in discussions concerning alcohol – “Should Christians in America drink alcohol knowing that we have such a problem with alcohol in our nation?” It is clear from the Bible that drinking alcohol is not, in isolation, a sin; only drinking in excess is a sin. However, 1 Corinthians 8 puts a greater burden on the decision to drink or not to drink: When you exercise your freedom to drink, does it influence others who cannot handle the freedom to drink to be tempted into sin? Should we condone alcohol use in a society that has such a problem with alcohol? This is a highly debated topic within the church.
From our readings today, I would say that if you have any doubt about the impact of your potential decision to drink, don’t drink. What does it cost you? Just a little pleasure. This is a small price to pay for your weaker brother or sister. Conversely, should we be overly critical of the Christian who does drink? I think today’s verses would also tell us, “No.” I have seen Christians ostracize other Christians who drank socially (not in excess). This is not how the Bible teaches us to handle disputable matters — “’knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.’” With disputable matters, we should approach others “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2, 3).” With indisputable matters, such as blasphemous teachings or unrepentant sexual sin, the church must hold firm.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42) Here, “little ones” doesn’t just refer to young children who follow Jesus; “little ones” signifies all believers growing up in Christ-like maturity. “We can commit no greater evil against another believer than causing them to sin. After all, we impede their growth into Christlikeness and negatively affect their heavenly reward when we lead other Christians astray. So, it follows that treating other Christians properly entails doing what we can to avoid causing them to stumble. The end that awaits those who cause others to sin is horrible indeed.” (Ligonier Ministries, Tabletalk Magazine)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 May 19: Be patient with those who are less spiritually mature than you, and seek to lead them (through example and through gentle counsel) to greater love, closer to Jesus. Be a leader in love who embodies fear of the Lord, humility, love, and faithfulness. When offended, take up your cross and fellowship with Jesus in that moment. Return nothing but good for evil. Speak the truth, but speak the truth in love, without defending yourself in any way. (1 Corinthians 8:13)